The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, May 25, 1996                TAG: 9605250035
TYPE: Movie review
                                            LENGTH:   68 lines


LOOK, up on the screen.

He's dumber than ``Dumb and Dumber'' (sometimes) and more bungling than Inspector Clouseau. He stumbles more quickly than any three of the stooges and ogles babes more avidly than Maurice Chevalier warbling yet another verse of ``Thank Heaven for Little Girls.''

It isn't Superman. It's Leslie Nielsen, the gray-haired master of rapid-paced spoofery. Leaving Frank Drebin (his ``Naked Gun'' persona) behind, the buffoon is now Dick Steel, sometimes known as Agent WD-40. ``Spy Hard'' is full of clinkers and outright groaners but for those who are bewildered by the incomprehensible plot twists of nearby ``Mission Impossible,'' it is relief. At the least it doesn't take itself seriously.

It's difficult to realize that this is the same Leslie Nielsen who once was the bachelor opposite Debbie Reynolds in ``Tammy and the Bachelor.'' Tammy may have been the last one to take him seriously. With ``Airplane,'' he initiated a second, more lucrative career as an aging clown.

``Spy Hard'' comes at least two decades late in spoofing the James Bond genre. That's already been done endlessly in all those '60s and '70s movies (things like ``Spy With a Cold Nose'' and such). The new film, too, lacks the wit and quickness of those spoofs from Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker.This one is directed by Rick Friedberg, who directs rental-car spots on TV, and reportedly was written by his 20ish son and a college roommate.

It does have its moments, though. Notable is the hilarious opener with Weird Al Yankovic screaming a ``theme song'' that resembles ``Goldfinger.'' In the background, fat folks swim by in silhouette, spoofing the usual 007 openings, which had more shapely bodies.

The ``plot'' is practically nonexistent. It has Andy Griffith going berserk as the evil Gen. Rancor, screaming ``Arm me.'' He has a point, since both arms were blown off by WD-40 in a former encounter.

Nicollette Sheridan doesn't make much of an impression as the foreign-accented femme fatale. More regrettably underused is Marcia Gay Harden, who interrupts a promising film career with a nothing bit as WD-40's horny secretary. A veteran of Virginia Stage Company, she scored as Ava Gardner in the TV-miniseries ``Sinatra.''

The movie spoofs are plentiful. There's Nielsen crashing a bicycle to the tune of ``Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head'' from ``Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.'' There's pony-tailed Leslie doing the twist a la ``Pulp Fiction,'' donning a habit from ``Sister Act,'' and riding a horse through buildings in the style of Arnold's ``True Lies.''

Most delightfully, there's a Macaulay Culkin lookalike getting bashed by grownups in payment for ``Home Alone'' and all his other adult-bashing outings.

Guest shots are contributed by Fabio, Mr. T, Roger Clinton and Hulk Hogan, but the best of the lot is Ray Charles as a blind bus driver who does the ``Speed'' routine.

Less raunchy than the other Nielsen films, the material isn't enough to sustain its 80 minutes but it has its moments. It's fun shopping around to find them. ILLUSTRATION: Graphic


``Spy Hard''

Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Andy Griffith, Nicollette Sheridan, Charles

Durning, Marcia Gay Harden, Barry Bostwick

Director: Rick Friedberg

MPAA rating: PG-13 (raunchy jokes, sexist, violence)

Mal's rating: Two 1/2 stars

Locations: Cinemark, Greenbrier Mall, Chesapeake; Janaf, Main

Gate, Norfolk; Columbus, Kemps River Crossing, Lynnhaven Mall,

Surf-n-Sand, Virginia Beach by CNB